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UPDATED: Powerball jackpot expected to hit $600 million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This weekend's Powerball jackpot could hit an all-time record, with a jackpot of "at least" $600 million, lottery officials said.

West Virginia Lottery Director John Musgrave announced Thursday afternoon the Multi-State Lottery Association, which administers Powerball, increased the estimated jackpot for Saturday's drawing to $550 million with a $350.1 million cash option.

But on Friday afternoon, MSLA officials said they expected the jackpot would be at least $600 million by Saturday's drawing.

Powerball saw its biggest-ever jackpot last year, when it reached $587.5 million.

The giant jackpot is a byproduct of increases to Powerball ticket prices in January 2012, which raised prices from $1 to $2. The Multi-State Lottery Association also increased the lottery game's minimum jackpot and players' odds of winning, in hopes of bolstering Powerball's popularity.

Musgrave voted against those changes, but West Virginia Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said they have had their desired effect.

"That game is doing exactly what they thought it would," he said. "There's definitely a lot of excitement surrounding half a billion dollars. Powerball has a great brand here in West Virginia. Our players love the game. They're very loyal to it."

On an average week, the state sells about $1.63 million in tickets among all seven of its ticket games. Powerball is the most popular lottery game in the state, selling on average $899,000 in tickets per week.

But Burnside said ticket sales tend to increase as jackpots get larger.

For last Saturday's drawing, the state saw $1.3 million in ticket sales. State lottery players purchased another $1.3 million for Wednesday's drawing, with $900,000 of those sales occurring on Wednesday alone.

Burnside said the lottery commission expects even stronger Powerball sales through the end of the week ahead of Saturday's drawing.

The state's other big jackpot game, Mega Millions, also is proving popular among ticket buyers, averaging about $176,000 in sales per week.

The Mega Millions jackpot for Friday night's drawing currently stands at $190 million.

Burnside said West Virginia has seen nine lottery winners of $1 million or more since January 2012. Two won Mega Millions, plus seven Powerball winners.

"That's by far the most million dollar or more prizes that we have given away in that short period of time in history of our lottery," he said.

The Multi-State Lottery Association recently made changes to another popular game, Hot Lotto. Starting earlier this month, federal and state withholding taxes are already figured into Hot Lotto's jackpot.

"What's advertised for the Hot Lotto game is what a person would walk away with," Burnside said. "The taxes have been paid by the lottery on the front end."

The jackpot for that game currently sits at $6.21 million.

Burnside said Hot Lotto jackpots aren't as large as Mega Millions or Powerball, but players have a greater chance of winning because fewer people play the game. On average, the state sells about $92,000 in Hot Lotto tickets each week.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.

 

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